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Japan trade a problem for Trump, but not as bad as China
Japan trade a problem for Trump, but not as bad as China

TOKYO (AP), May 25 (TIWN): -- When President Donald Trump visits Japan, he'll be able to point to Tokyo's streets to drive home a sore point in trade relations between the allies: the absence of made-in-USA vehicles.

The $70 billion Japanese trade surplus with the U.S. is dwarfed by China's $379 billion surplus, and the trade tensions between Washington and Tokyo are far less contentious than the tariffs war with Beijing.

But the disputes between Japan and the U.S. are longstanding and also intractable: the bilateral agreement with Tokyo that Trump has been seeking since pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago is still far down the road, say analysts and politicians on both sides.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has carefully courted Trump since before he took office and their cordial, golfing-buddy relationship has helped keep relations on an even keel.

While Trump has complained repeatedly about the trade imbalance, especially in autos and auto parts — the Hondas and Toyotas on U.S. roads are a daily reminder — friction over Japan's exports has not reached the fever pitch it did in the late 1980s, when angry American auto workers smashed Japanese vehicles.

The Trump administration's tough stance on China, including the tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that recently kicked in, is almost a replay of the "Japan bashing" of decades ago.

To help alleviate tensions, especially over vehicle exports, Japanese automakers have moved much of their production for America to the U.S., investing a cumulative $51 billion and building 24 manufacturing plants, many in areas that have little else to count on to vitalize their economies. Those investments have created some 1.6 million jobs, according to the industry group Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Trade remains unbalanced: In April Japan's exports to the U.S. jumped nearly 10%, while imports of American goods rose 2.3%. Japan's trade surplus surged almost 18% to 723 billion yen ($6.6 billion).

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